IN PICTURES: A Sneak Peek at the “Surrealist Weirdo Humor” Art of Upcoming Exhibition HaHa Cloud Machine


Photos by Asia Morris. Illustration by Jay Torres.

One of Long Beach’s most well known artists, Dave Van Patten, often lauded for his quirky and surreal illustrations, has curated a group exhibition for the first time, and it’s nothing short of comically grotesque.

Featuring work by Daniel Johnston, Charlyne Yi, Penelope Gazin, Matt Furie, Craig Gleason, Travis Millard, Creep, James Carey, Jeff McMillan, Lara Lee Mientjes, Lara Odell and more, HaHa Cloud Machine: A Humor Themed Illustration Show’s opening reception will take place on Saturday, from 7:00PM to 10:00PM at Made by Millworks.

“Since Long Beach isn’t huge in the Indy comic world, I’d like our more mainstream art culture to become more acquainted with the work of these weirdo artists,” said Van Patten. “I get a lot of praise in Long Beach because of the weird art I do, but locals need to realize there are a ton of other artists making surrealist weirdo humor art, and many of them in this show have been doing it way longer than I have.”


Works from left to right by Matt Furie, Michael Hsiung (background) and Creep.

As much as Van Patten wants to expose locals to the weird art outside city borders, he hopes to impress the LA art scene by showing that Long Beach can host a “strong Indy illustrator event.”

“Even though a handful of these artists are super famous, they are still considered Indy for the most part,” said Van Patten. “Their work is known in very niche circles. This is meaningful to me, because it brings the most potent illustrators I can think of all together in one room.”

Daniel Johnston, cult songwriter, lo-fi pioneer, indie legend, artist and “one of America’s most beloved but troubled creative minds,” according to Billboard, was the last person the first-time curator had reached out to. It was a long shot, but Van Patten thought, “What the hell-why not?” To his surprise, Johnston confirmed.


Works by Daniel Johnston.

Works from Johnston will include pages from his one and only graphic novel, “Space Ducks: An Infinite Comic Book of Musical Greatness,” which he created after a decades-long career in music. You may know Johnston for his 80s album “Hi, How Are You,” from which a T-shirt with a drawing of an alien made it into Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s wardrobe, who was photographed wearing it several times.

You may have also seen the award-winning 2006 documentary, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” showing a life of sadness and humor, that delves into his career and the struggles of living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, that Johnston himself was amused with.

“But, it just seemed like such a tragedy,” Johnston told The Blue Indian in 2009. “Every time I had some trouble in life, it was in the movie, you know? But, it’s kind of funny. There’s a lot of funny things in the movie.”

“There is something childish and innocent about drawing gory pictures,” Van Patten said. “I used to do that throughout elementary school. Daniel Johnston’s work kind of reminds me of that phase. It’s a little crude, but so expressive, colorful, and hilarious.”


Work by Jeff McMillan.

Such is the idea behind HaHa Cloud Machine, a mix of “funny things” and “tragedy.” The show’s description, “humor themed,” might entice a few attendees looking for a loud laugh, but in actuality it grazes the surface of the macabre, gory and gross, with visuals provided by a plethora of artists from the Long Beach and Los Angeles areas.

Van Patten was also surprised that two of his favorite artists, Penelope Gazin, who illustrated for Vice Magazine and designs for and runs this wildly popular Etsy shop, and Craig Gleason, known for his ghoulish, dripping characters, not only confirmed, but created new pieces specifically for the show. Matt Furie will also be showing a number of impressively detailed drawings to be used for an upcoming coloring book.

“Even though this is a humor themed show, I’m not really expecting a bunch of laughs out loud,” said Van Patten. “This kind of work gives you a silent little laugh inside. Some of it is more gross than funny,[…] there is something subtly funny about the pathetic and gross.”

For more information, visit the Facebook event page here.


Made by Millworks is located at 240 Pine Avenue.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.